Vladislav Kuklia was a Ukrainian Jew interned in the Syretsky Camp, 5 km from Kiev. On 22 August 1943, he was taken from there to Babi Yar, a place where tens of thousands of Jews are said to have been shot and buried by the Germans in mass graves in late September 1941 (see the entry on Babi Yar). He was interrogated by the NKGB on 4 February 1944 about his alleged experiences at Babi Yar.
Among other things, Kuklia stated that he was shackled and forced to exhume and burn corpses buried in mass graves. He asserted that 70 to 80 pyres, each measuring about 10 meters long and 5 meters wide, and with 2,000 to 4,000 and even more bodies on them, were built, burning a total of 95,000 to 100,000 bodies. In an interview on 1 March 1944, Kuklia specified that each layer of bodies on the pyre contained 250 bodies, alternating with layers of wood, until the pyre contained two to four thousand bodies. In other words, a pyre contained between 8 and 16 layers of wood and bodies. Each layer had a surface area of 50 m², meaning that 5 bodies were lying on every square meter.
Since each corpse requires 250 kg of freshly cut wood (see open-air incinerations), this means that each layer of wood under a layer of bodies had to contain 1.25 metric tons of wood. The density of green wood is roughly 0.9 tons per m³, and its stacking density on a pyre is 1.4 (40% for air and flames to go through). This means that the wood required to burn just one layer of corpses would have stacked up to a height of almost 2 meters. Adding the body layer gets us beyond 2 meters. 8 to 16 such layers result in a pyre 16 to 32 meters high. It would have been impossible to build such a pyre, and also impossible to burn it down without it collapsing and spilling burning wood and corpses all over the place. Kuklia actually stated that the pyres they built were only as high as a normal room. In fact, that would have been the height of just the bodies stacked up – without any wood.
Kuklia claimed that, after the pyres had burned down, unburned bones were ground down, the cremation remains sifted through sieves, and the powder scattered. However, wood-fired pyres burn unevenly and leave behind lots of unburned wood pieces, charcoal, and incompletely burned body parts, not just ashes and bones (80% of leftovers would have been from wood, not corpses). Incompletely burned wood and human remains could not have been ground. Any sieve would have clogged with the first load. Moreover, any occasional rainfall would have rendered any burned-out pyre into a moist heap of highly alkaline, corrosive slush that could not have been processed at all. If 100,000 bodies were burned, then several thousand metric tons of cremation leftovers had to be processed. Just this job would have required hundreds of men to complete in time.
Kuklia also insisted that they had to throw bodies of people into the pyres who had been killed in gas vans. However, considering that the front was getting very close to Kiev during September 1943, it is unlikely that anyone would have operated gas vans in Kiev’s vicinity. All this apart from the fact that gas vans are a figment of Soviet atrocity propaganda (see the entry on gas vans).
Cremating an average human body during open-air incinerations requires some 250 kg of freshly cut wood. Cremating 100,000 bodies thus requires some 25,000 metric tons of wood. This would have required the felling of all trees growing in a 50-year-old spruce forest covering almost 56 hectares of land, or some 125 American football fields. An average prisoner is rated at being able to cut some 0.63 metric tons of fresh wood per workday. To cut this amount of wood within five weeks (35 days) that this operation supposedly lasted would have required a work force of some 1,134 dedicated lumberjacks just to cut the wood. Kuklia claimed his unit consisted only of 122 inmates, all busy digging out mass graves, extracting bodies, building pyres, sifting through ashes, scattering the ashes and refilling the graves with soil. Kuklia says nothing about where the mountain of firewood came from, other than: “firewood, twigs.” One wonders how many “twigs” it takes to burn 100,000 bodies.